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Newsline - July 15, 2003


PROSECUTOR-GENERAL'S OFFICE INCREASES PRESSURE ON YUKOS
Nataliya Vishnyakova, spokeswoman for the Russian Prosecutor-General's Office, announced on 14 July that weapons and surveillance and eavesdropping equipment were confiscated during an 11 July search of the Yukos offices, ORT and RIA-Novosti reported. Vishnyakova said the Prosecutor-General's Office is in the process of determining whether the discovery is grounds for an additional investigation. Dmitrii Gololobov, the deputy chief of Yukos's legal department, said on 14 July that the company's lawyers are preparing to challenge the legality of the raids conducted by prosecutors and the Federal Security Service (FSB). He also said the confiscated equipment included only laser pistols used for training security personnel and commonly used security-surveillance equipment, gazeta.ru reported. Gololobov said he believes the seizure of the equipment will be cited as material evidence against the company and will be used as an excuse to launch "other provocations" against the company. Meanwhile, the newspaper "Kommersant-Daily," which is controlled by self-exiled tycoon Boris Berezovskii, reported on 14 July that Yukos's management has prepared an emergency plan in the event that CEO Mikhail Khodorkovskii or other top executives are arrested. The plan calls for arrested executives to be immediately replaced by individuals holding foreign citizenship, according to the newspaper. VY

...AS PRESIDENTIAL ADVISER CONDEMNS ARREST OF MENATEP MANAGER...
Speaking at a press conference in Moscow, Andrei Illarionov, the economic adviser to President Vladimir Putin, said the arrest of Menatep executive Platon Lebedev is an example of double standards and "selective justice," RTR reported on 14 July. Menatep is the financial arm of Yukos, and Lebedev is a longtime business associate of Khodorkovskii and a top Yukos shareholder. Illarionov said that while the Prosecutor-General's Office is accusing Yukos of causing damages to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars, the company's stock price has tumbled by 20 percent as a result of the investigation (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2003). He also said the only alternative to "selective justice" would be the total revision of all privatization results, which would lead to civil war and national catastrophe. Illarionov said he believes the matter should be put to rest, and that past affairs should be reopened as infrequently as possible. "It is not an issue of [economic] amnesty," he said, but of national consent and accord. VY

...AS DOES FEDERATION COUNCIL CHAIRMAN
Sergei Mironov told REN-TV on 14 July that Lebedev's arrest violated the judicial norm of the presumption of innocence. He said an investigation should precede arrest, not vice versa. He added that if in an individual is suspected of an economic crime, he or she may be summoned for an interrogation but not imprisoned at that time, as suspects are innocent until proven guilty. Moreover, Lebedev's arrest has harmed the country's economy and its image abroad, Mironov said. He said Russia needs to develop legislation that will more equally distribute profits culled from the country's natural resources, but that the recent actions of the Prosecutor-General's Office have nothing to do with this. VY

BP TO PROCEED WITH MERGER PLANS
Peter Henshaw, British Petroleum's (BP) spokesman in Russia, said on 14 July that the British-U.S. conglomerate will proceed with plans to merge its Russian assets with those of the Tyumen Oil Company (TNK), Interfax reported (see "RFE/RL Business Watch," 1 July 2003). Union of Industrialists and Entrepreneurs (RSPP) President Arkadii Volskii had expressed his fears in a 12 July television interview that the Yukos affair will undermine Russia's business environment and block Western investment. The two companies signed a deal in London on 26 June finalizing the terms of the $6.15 billion merger. Henshaw expressed BP's satisfaction with the merger, saying that President Putin's and British Prime Minister Tony Blair's support for the deal is sufficient for BP to proceed with it. VY

NEW PRESIDENTIAL COMMISSION ANALYZED
Commenting on President Putin's recent proposal to create a joint working group headed by presidential aide Igor Shuvalov that will work to meet "strategic goals" outlined in the president's State of the Nation address in May, "Kommersant-Daily" on 14 July suggested that the new commission will encroach upon the government's area of responsibility. According to the daily, the "government is maneuvering in the corridor of functions that is steadily growing narrower." "Vedomosti" the same day had a more benign interpretation, noting that participants believe the commission will be working on the agenda for Putin's next term in office. According to the daily, the commission will hold its first meeting in late August and will comprise 15 members, who have yet to be named. JAC

LAW ON POLITICAL PARTIES COMES INTO FULL FORCE
The two-year transitional period under which the law on political parties came into force ended on 14 July, polit.ru reported. As a result, all public-political associations that did not manage to reregister as a political party cannot be considered as such and will become simply public associations, according to the Justice Ministry. Public associations are not allowed to participate in elections. Deputy Justice Minister Yevgenii Sidorenko told reports that of the 50 political parties that are currently registered in Russia, the ministry recognizes 43 as currently having the right to participate in the 7 December State Duma elections. Dmtrii Orlov of the Moscow-based Center for Political Technology said the law might be compared with the United States' prohibition of political-action committees' (PAC) participation in the election process, "Vremya novostei" reported on 15 July. Intra-regional, regional, and local political associations also lost the right to participate in elections with the end of the two-year transition period, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 June. JAC

POSSIBLE SUCCESSOR TO PATRIARCH ACCUSED OF BEING KGB OFFICER
A priest in Kostroma Oblast, Georgii Edelshtein, has sent an open letter to President Putin protesting the recent bestowal of a medal on Metropolitan Mefodii, RFE/RL's Moscow bureau reported on 12 July. Edelshtein alleges that Mefodii was for many years connected with the KGB. During the recent scare about the health of Patriarch for Moscow and All Russia Aleksii II, Mefodii's name appeared in the press as a possible successor. The bureau reported that 12 years ago, Metropolitan Khrizostom Martyshkin, who is now in Lithuania, said: "We have in our church a genuine 'KGBnik'.... For example, Metropolitan Mefodii. He is a KGB officer, an atheist, a vicious person, a so-called KGBnik." However, in May of this year, Metropolitan Khrizostom adopted a softer tone, saying: "I see nothing reprehensible about contacts with the KGB. I said about Metropolitan Mefodii that I do not exclude that he is a career KGB officer. This was my supposition. At one point, [when] we were colleagues together at the Department for External Church Relations, we were even friends. Once I shared some confidential information with him, and he betrayed me. From this incident, I drew the conclusion that he was in contact with the KGB not only for the church's sake but to pursue his own interests." JAC

ANOTHER WEEKLY FACES UNCERTAIN FUTURE FOLLOWING IMPOSITION OF HEAVY FINE
"Versiya" Editor in Chief Rustam Arifdzhanov has resigned because the weekly recently lost a lawsuit filed by the influential Alfa Group, newsru.com reported on 14 July. According to the website, a court has ordered the weekly to pay 3 million rubles ($99,000) to Alfa-Bank Director Petr Aven and Alfa Group head Mikhail Fridman and an additional 170,000 rubles to the international detective agency Kroll Associates. Publication of the weekly will continue for another three months, but its future after that is unknown. The articles were written by investigative journalist Oleg Lure, who has already resigned. JAC

OMSK RACE BEGINS WITH LAWSUIT
Omsk Governor Leonid Polezhaev officially informed the oblast's Election Commission on 14 July that he plans to participate in the region's 7 September gubernatorial election, "Kommersant-Daily" reported on 15 July. He also filed a defamation lawsuit against his probable competitor in that race, Communist State Duma Deputy Leonid Maevskii. An unidentified source in the oblast's Communist Party branch told the daily that Maevskii does not have a lot of money to conduct his campaign. One way to further reduce his campaign coffers, the daily suggested, would be to force him to wage legal battles. Polezhaev is currently seeking "moral damages" from Maevskii for an article in a local newspaper in which the legislator drew a conclusion about Polezhaev's "closeness to criminal activities." Polezhaev is seeking 200,000 rubles ($6,600) from Maevskii and 100,000 rubles from the author of the article. JAC

FORMER KALMYKIA INTERIOR MINISTER FREED PENDING INVESTIGATION
Former Kalmykia Republic Interior Minister Timofei Sasykov, who has been accused of abuse of office, has been freed from a jail in Rostov-na-Donu following the issuance of a court order, RIA-Novosti reported on 14 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 28 May 2003). Sasykov is accused of having arranged the illegal distribution of apartments to military officials. He was dismissed on 17 April after the federal Interior Ministry found his work to be "unsatisfactory" The criminal case is being conducted by the Southern Federal District's Prosecutor-General's Office, which is based in Rostov-na-Donu. A new republican interior minister, Vladimir Ponomarev, was appointed on 7 July after the federal Interior Ministry determined that interim republican Minister Vyacheslav Matveev was coordinating his work with the dismissed Sasykov, RTR reported on 7 July. JAC

EMBATTLED ARMENIAN TELEVISION STATION RENEWS BID TO REGAIN BROADCAST FREQUENCY
The independent Armenian television station A1+ renewed its application on 14 July for its broadcast frequency in a new tender, RFE/RL's Yerevan bureau reported. According to Mesrop Movsesian, the head of A1+, the National Commission for Television and Radio is preparing to review proposals from seven private television stations that are competing for five broadcasting frequencies in the current tender. A1+ was forced to cease broadcasting in April 2002 after losing a tender for the frequency on which it broadcast (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 and 3 April 2002). The frequency once used by A1+ was awarded to Armenia TV, which is owned by a U.S. Armenian businessman who strongly supported President Robert Kocharian in the recent presidential ballot. An earlier attempt to regain a frequency failed last month after commission Chairman Grigor Amalian rejected a seven-year, $5 million proposal by A1+ (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003). RG

ARMENIAN PRIME MINISTER OPENS REPUBLICAN PARTY CONGRESS
Prime Minister Andranik Markarian opened the eighth party congress of his ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) in Yerevan on 12 July, Armenpress reported. After reviewing the party's achievements in the past year, Markarian affirmed Armenia's desire for fuller integration with European structures but stressed that he will continue to oppose the passage of Protocol 6 of the Council of Europe's Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which calls for a ban on capital punishment. According to Markarian, the abolition of the death penalty in Armenia "would jeopardize the country's interests." Commenting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the premier added that "Karabakh must not be subordinated to Azerbaijan and its population's security must be ensured with Armenia and Karabakh sharing a common border." The Republican Party is the dominant party in parliament -- holding 40 of the 131 seats in the recently elected body -- and controls the local governments of roughly 400 smaller towns and villages in Armenia. RG

ARMENIAN PARLIAMENTARY DEPUTY SPEAKER WARNS OF DANGER OF REOPENING BORDER WITH TURKEY
Speaking at a 12 July press conference, Armenian parliamentary Deputy Chairman Vahan Hovannisian warned that opening the Turkish-Armenian border would place "Armenia's interests under direct threat," according to Noyan Tapan and Armenpress. Hovannisian explained that an unrestricted opening of the border with Turkey would lead to irreparable harm to Armenian agriculture and would spur a "flood of cheaper products in the Armenian market," leading to "serious losses" for Armenian farmers. The deputy speaker recommended that Armenia should place higher priority in the reopening of the railway link through Abkhazia, suggesting that the Abkhaz route would "enable Armenia to export competitively priced products." The Armenian-Turkish border has been closed for a decade as a result of Turkey joining the Azerbaijani-imposed trade and transport blockade of Armenia. RG

AZERBAIJANI SUPREME COURT REJECTS OPPOSITION BID FOR PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDACY
The Azerbaijani Supreme Court ruled on 14 July against a motion by the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADP) seeking to register its exiled leader, former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev, as its candidate in the 15 October presidential election, Interfax and ANS reported. The opposition party was petitioning the court to overturn a decision by the Central Election Commission declaring Guliev ineligible (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 July 2003). The head of the Baku office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Peter Burkhardt, expressed concern over the ruling. Guliev, a former deputy prime minister as well as parliamentary speaker before resigning in 1996, faces outstanding criminal charges of corruption and embezzlement in Azerbaijan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 16 January and 8 April 1998). Although Guliev fled Azerbaijan and lives in self-imposed exile in the United States to evade the charges, he continues to lead the opposition DPA and is seen by some as one of the most formidable opponents to 80-year-old President Heidar Aliev. RG

COUNCIL OF EUROPE OFFICIALS REVIEW SITUATION IN AZERBAIJAN
A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) led by Andreas Gross and Martinez Kassan met on 14 July with Azerbaijani officials in Baku, ANS reported. The PACE officials reviewed the Azerbaijani government's progress in fulfilling its obligations to conform to Council of Europe standards. Kassan and Gross are to present a report to the Council of Europe on specific aspects of the country's electoral code and the status of political prisoners, both issues of serious concern to the European delegation. RG

CONFERENCE ON CONSTITUTIONAL LAW OPENS IN BAKU
An international conference on the role of constitutional court in protecting democratic values and the rule of law convened in Baku on 14 July, ANS and Azertac news agency reported. The conference, timed with the fifth anniversary of the establishment of the Azerbaijani Constitutional Court, discussed several key elements of draft legislation aimed at strengthening the court's powers to enforce civil liberties and bolster the rule of law in Azerbaijan. The head of the Azerbaijani Constitutional Court, Justice Farhad Abdullaev, reported that the draft legislation is expected to be adopted by parliament prior to the October presidential elections. Participants included a number of legal experts and justices from a number of countries, including Russia and Georgia, and the Council of Europe. RG

TALKS UNDER WAY FOR SALE OF SHARES IN LEADING AZERBAIJANI BANK
Officials of Azerbaijan's Parabank announced on 14 July that talks are under way with representatives of the German DEG investment firm over the possible sale of shares in the Azerbaijani bank, Interfax reported. The chairman of Parabank, Eldar Guliev, revealed that the German firm is interested in acquiring a significant stake in the bank, one of the largest in Azerbaijan. RG

GEORGIAN MINISTER MEETS WITH ABKHAZ OFFICIALS IN SUKHUM
Special Assignments Minister Malkhaz Kakabadze met on 15 July with Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba in the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia's capital Sukhum, Civil Georgia reported. The ministers were invited to participate in the latest round of UN-facilitated talks and review the preparations for the 21-22 July meeting in Geneva of the UN secretary-general's Group of Friends, which comprises the United States, Russia, Great Britain, Germany, and France. RG

ADJARIAN LEADER DISMISSES ENTIRE CABINET
Adjarian Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze dismissed his entire cabinet on 13 July for failing to overcome a serious budget shortfall in the first half of the year, "The Georgian Times" and Civil Georgia reported. Abashidze has ruled the Adjar Autonomous Republic since 1991 with a notable disregard for delegating authority or governing beyond a small circle of trusted advisers, but he also holds national influence beyond Batumi, mainly through his Revival Union bloc. RG

GEORGIAN PRESIDENT ENDORSES U.S. ELECTORAL PROPOSALS
In comments in his weekly radio address on 14 July, President Eduard Shevardnadze affirmed his support for a set of U.S.-drafted electoral proposals, ITAR-TASS and Civil Georgia reported. The president welcomed the 10-point U.S. proposals, more commonly known as the "Baker Scorecard," after former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker presented the proposals in Tbilisi earlier this month (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 and 8 July 2003). Shevardnadze dismissed reports that Baker urged him to resign, noting that he will complete his term as president through 2005. Of the 10 points in the Baker proposals, the most significant measures include a call for the government to reconstitute the Central Election Commission (CEC) by nominating five members and allowing the opposition to appoint nine, and a recommendation that the OSCE select a respected, nonpolitical member of Georgian society as CEC chairman. The engagement of the United States in the Georgian electoral process reflects concern over mounting political instability in the face of the November parliamentary election. RG

SHARP BUDGET CUTS SUBMITTED TO GEORGIAN PARLIAMENT
In response to recent recommendations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President Eduard Shevardnadze presented a new package of severe budget cuts to the parliament on 14 July, Civil Georgia reported. The 95.5 million laris ($44 million) reductions in spending follows strong pressure by the IMF on the Georgian government to tackle its large budget deficit, now 1.7 percent of the country's GDP. The IMF also urged Tbilisi to increase revenue by 40 million laris, raise electricity tariffs, and add the more than 220-million-lari pension and state-sector-wage arrears for 1998-2000 to the country's domestic debt (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 8 July 2003). RG

ANTHRAX OUTBREAK REPORTED IN SOUTH KAZAKHSTAN
Four people have contracted anthrax and been hospitalized in South Kazakhstan Oblast, Kazakhstan Today reported on 14 July. Two cases were diagnosed in the town of Lenger on 11 July and two more in the village of Abay three days later. The village has been placed under quarantine and medical personnel are taking measures to prevent the spread of the disease, which has been traced to animals slaughtered by the four victims, according to the report. Outbreaks of anthrax contracted from animals that have the disease occur occasionally in Central Asia. Epidemiologists in the region have considerable experience in dealing with naturally occurring outbreaks such as that in South Kazakhstan, but medical authorities in the Aral Sea basin continue to be worried about the possibility of anthrax escaping from a former biological weapons laboratory that was located on an island in the Aral that has become a peninsula as the sea level has fallen. BB

SUSPECT DETAINED IN KILLING OF FORMER KAZAKH MINISTER
Police in western Kazakhstan have detained a suspect in the contract killing of former Industry Minister Khairulla Ospanov in May, Interfax-Kazakhstan reported on 14 July, quoting the Mangystau Oblast internal-affairs press service. Ospanov headed the state Oil Construction Company at the time of his death. The suspect, named as Bakhtiyar Taimukhamedov, was apprehended in the oil town of Aktau, the administrative center of Mangystau Oblast, after escaping from a medical facility in Aktau where he was undergoing psychiatric tests. Taimukhamedov is suspected of having organized Ospanov's killing. BB

KYRGYZ NONGOVERNMENTAL GROUP PROPOSES CIVIL-SOCIETY OVERSIGHT OF LAW ENFORCEMENT REFORM
The Kyrgyz Association of Nongovernmental and Noncommercial Organizations has proposed the creation of a council of civil-society representatives to ensure the transparency of planned reforms of the country's law enforcement agencies, RFE/RL's Kyrgyz Service reported on 13 July, quoting association chairman Toktaiym Umetalieva. The association has also suggested that the Internal Affairs Ministry be renamed the Law Enforcement Ministry. Umetalieva said that her group, unlike many other NGOs, supports a project to prevent mass public disturbances that is part of a 3.6 million-euro program prepared by the OSCE to assist in reform of the Kyrgyz law enforcement system. The NGOs that object to the project assert that the training police receive in controlling mass public disturbances will be used to crush legitimate protests. President Askar Akaev has said that civil society representatives will be welcome to observe the implementation of the training program. BB

U.S. FUNDS CONSTRUCTION OF BRIDGE BETWEEN TAJIKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN
The United States has earmarked $12 million for construction of a bridge over the Pyandzh River between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, RIA-Novosti reported on 14 July, quoting the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe. The bridge is expected to help in the economic integration of the Central Asian region by making possible the establishment of new trade routes. The project is reported to be the result of discussions among the U.S., Tajik, Afghan, Russian, and Norwegian governments. According to the embassy, a group of U.S. Army engineers has arrived in Tajikistan to study possible locations for the bridge, which will be the first to link the two countries across the Pyandzh. Construction is expected to start this fall. BB

RUSSIAN CITIZENS CAN GET TURKMEN RESIDENCE PERMITS, SAYS OMBUDSMAN
Russian Ombudsman Oleg Mironov announced on 14 July that Russian citizens residing in Turkmenistan will be allowed to obtain Turkmen residence permits, RIA-Novosti and other Russian media reported the same day. Mironov told a news conference in Moscow that he had met with Turkmenistan's ambassador in Russia, Khalnazar Agakhanov, on 11 July and discussed all the serious problems that have emerged as a result of the revocation of dual Turkmen-Russian citizenship. Mironov was quoted as saying that Agakhanov had assured him that holders of Russian citizenship who want to retain it will be allowed to continue living in Turkmenistan and will retain all their rights except for the right to vote, hold government office, or serve in the Turkmen armed forces. In other words, they will be treated as foreign permanent residents, as if the protocol ending dual citizenship that was signed by the Turkmen and Russian presidents in April were already in force. The Russian side has repeatedly insisted that the protocol cannot be enforced until it is ratified and that it is not retroactive. Mironov said that the Turkmen ambassador has no information about reported violations of the rights of Russians in Turkmenistan but has admitted that individual officials might have committed arbitrary acts. BB

TURKMENISTAN SHARPLY RESTRICTS CROSS-BORDER TRAVEL TO AND FROM IRAN
Turkmen authorities have almost completely closed Turkmenistan's border with Iran, "Vremya novostei" reported on 15 July. According to the report, the restrictions were instituted prior to the most recent outbreak of antigovernment demonstrations in Iran. Normally there is a lively cross-border trade at the border crossing near Ashgabat, with dozens of Iranian small traders hauling consumer goods to the Turkmen bazaars. Ashgabat Raion and other districts bordering on the parts of Iran inhabited by ethnic Turkmen are reported to be particularly affected by the border restrictions. Travel to and from Iran was already limited in 2002 when Turkmen President Saparmurat Niyazov decreed that citizens of Turkmenistan had to buy exit visas in order to go to Iran and Uzbekistan. BB

HOMELESS CHILDREN BECOME FOCUS OF CONCERN IN UZBEKISTAN
The semi-official center for children's social services, Mekhr Tayanchi (Support of Love), has published a study of homeless children in Tashkent and, based on its findings, the group intends to establish special schools for street children in cooperation with the Education Ministry, Deutsche Welle reported on 13 July. According to the study, there are several thousand homeless children in Tashkent, and the number is constantly growing as runaways from other parts of Uzbekistan drift to the capital. Child beggars have been a common sight on Tashkent streets for many years, according to Tashkent residents, who say the children are often recruited by drug dealers to act as couriers and perform other services. Mekhr Tayanchi's reported findings indicate that 90 percent of the homeless children have relatives somewhere. Fifty percent of the children are Russian-speakers, a far higher share than the Russian-speaking percentage of Uzbekistan's population. The study found that 82 percent of the street children support themselves by begging, 27 percent by thievery, and 27 percent by washing cars. One-quarter of them are illiterate, and 10 percent have never gone to school. According to the report, the Tashkent city health service has already begun a program to provide medical care for street children. BB

JAPAN GIVES EDUCATION GRANT TO UZBEKISTAN
The Japanese government is giving Uzbekistan a grant of $50,000 under a joint project to provide educational stipends, uzreport.com and ITAR-TASS reported on 14 July, quoting the Japanese ambassador in Tashkent. The grant will fund the studies of more than 30 young Uzbeks at Japan's leading institutions of higher education. The embassy noted that in the last two years, Japan has provided more than $2 million to support education in Uzbekistan. BB

BELARUSIAN PROTESTANTS ACCUSE STATE-RUN MEDIA OF 'SMEAR CAMPAIGN'
Around 5,000 Evangelical Christians gathered in Minsk on 13 July to protest the Belarusian government's attitude regarding Protestant communities, Belapan reported on 14 July. The gathering was prompted by a "smear campaign" against Evangelical Christians in state-run media, according to Protestant leaders, who equated the situation with repression in 1937 Byelorussia under Joseph Stalin. "Certain journalists accuse Protestants of murders, [and] call them 'satanic vermin' and 'enemies of the people,'" Bishops Syarhey Khomich, Syarhey Tsvor, and Alyaksandr Sakovich charged. The rally adopted a petition to Belarusian President Alyaksandr Lukashenka saying Evangelical Christians will defend their constitutional right to freedom of conscience and religion by all the legal means at their disposal. AM

BELARUSIAN PRINTERS REJECT INDEPENDENT WEEKLY
Belarusian printing houses have refused to print "Salidarnasts," a weekly founded by the Belarusian Independent Trade Union to succeed the suspended "Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta" (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 3 June 2003), Editor in Chief Alyaksandr Starykevich told Belapan on 14 July. He accused the government of forbidding printers from producing the weekly. "We are trying to find some way out, but we have limited opportunities," Starykevich said. "Predprinimatelskaya Gazeta," another attempt to fill the "Belorusskaya Delovaya Gazeta" niche, ran aground after Belarusian police confiscated an issue that had been printed in Russia (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003). AM

UKRAINE, POLAND REJECT 'REVERSE MODE' FOR ODESA-BRODY OIL PIPELINE
The Odesa-Brody oil pipeline will be used exclusively to pump oil from Odesa to Brody -- and not vice versa -- Ukrainian Fuel and Energy Minister Serhiy Yermilov announced in Gdansk on 14 July, according to Ukrainian television. Ukrainian and Polish representatives thus dismissed a suggestion by Russian oil company Tyumen Oil Company and British Petroleum that the conduit be used in "reverse mode," (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 12 June 2003). Ukrainian and Polish officials and corporate representatives were meeting to discuss the "northern dimension for Caspian oil." Poland's Pern and Ukrtransnafta signed a protocol at the meeting on creating a joint venture to complete the Polish stretch of the pipeline. The meeting considered extending the pipeline to port of Gdansk (see "RFE/RL Newsline" 28 May 2003). "The European direction is the most profitable.... It means 40 million tons of oil to be pumped annually,... while the reverse use could transit only up to 9 million tons," Yermilov said. AM

UKRAINIAN PRESIDENT URGES NEW MEASURES TO FIGHT MONEY LAUNDERING
President Leonid Kuchma opened a regular meeting of the State Department for Financial Monitoring in Kyiv on 14 July by ordering increased vigilance in the fight against money laundering, Interfax reported. Long criticized by the international community for insufficient efforts to combat the trend, Kuchma ordered the creation of an integrated state-information and analytical network, the amendment by 1 October of financial and banking legislation to thwart dubious operations, greater cooperation with international bodies responsible for combating money laundering, and tighter control over resellers in Ukraine that are "the biggest claimants for VAT refunds." AM

ESTONIA, FRANCE SIGN ACCORD ON CULTURAL INSTITUTES
Foreign Minister Kristiina Ojuland and French Ambassador to Estonia Chantal de Ghaisne de Bourmont signed an agreement in Tallinn on 14 July on the status and operation of cultural institutes, BNS reported. France established the French Culture Center in Tallinn in 1992, and the Estonian Institute in France opened its doors in 2001. The institutes had operated without any founding agreement, resulting in a number of problems in their day-to-day operation. The new agreement provides them with a clearly defined legal foundation and is expected to strengthen cultural relations between the two countries. SG

LATVIAN PREMIER DISCUSSES 2004 BUDGET WITH COALITION PARTNERS
Prime Minister Einars Repse held separate talks on the 2004 national budget with representatives of For the Fatherland and Freedom/LNNK (TB/LNNK) and Latvia's First Party (LPP) in Riga on 14 July, LETA reported the next day. TB/LNNK parliamentary deputy Guntars Krasts said his party will agree to the cutting of some special budget items but will oppose any reduction in the highway fund, as stepped-up road repairs will be needed to justify the planned higher fuel excise tax. Deputy Prime Minister Ainars Slesers stressed that the LPP firmly backs the coalition's earlier pledge to reduce the corporate-tax rate from 19 to 15 percent in 2004 and does not support New Era's recent suggestion to lower it to 18 percent. SG

LITHUANIAN DEPUTY OFFERS HIS APARTMENT TO HOST CHECHEN WEBSITE
Christian Democrat parliamentary deputy Petras Grazulis has suggested placing the server of the Chechen pro-independence website Kavkaz-Tsentr in his apartment at the parliamentarians' residence, BNS reported on 15 July. The server had operated in Lithuania from January to mid-April, then moved to Estonia in April before returning to Lithuania in late May. On 20 June, Lithuanian State Security Department officials confiscated the server as evidence, charging that it was propagating terrorism and national hatred. Grazulis protested the confiscation, charging that the department yielded to Russian pressure, as no evidence to support the charges had been presented. In offering his apartment to house the server, he said he is not doing anything illegal because only a court may decide whether the website was indeed propagating terrorism. SG

LITHUANIAN GREENS URGE BOYCOTT OF LUKOIL
The Lithuanian Greens issued a statement on 14 July urging the population not to buy fuel and other products from the Russian oil company LUKoil, BNS reported. The action was prompted by the statement made by Vladimir Grachev, chairman of the Russian State Duma Ecology Committee, in Kaliningrad on 11 July that no international commission would be allowed to inspect the ecological safety of LUKoil's planned oil-extraction project in the Baltic Sea not far from Lithuania's maritime border. Requests by Lithuania and the UNESCO World Heritage Committee (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003) for detailed information about safety studies that have been conducted have not been fulfilled. Prime Minister Algirdas Brazauskas said he thinks Russia would not bar international inspection, as his Russian counterpart, Mikhail Kasyanov, assured him that all aspects of the extraction project will be transparent. SG

POLAND CHOOSES BRITISH OFFER IN PRIVATIZATION OF STEEL SECTOR
Treasury Minister Piotr Czyzewski announced on 14 July that the Polish government has granted British consortium LNM exclusivity in negotiations for the purchase of Polskie Huty Stali (PHS), the conglomerate uniting Poland's largest steelworks, Polish Radio reported. Czyzewski noted that the government may turn to a second bidder if negotiations break down with the British consortium. US Steel, which also bid in the tender, might still have a chance if it remains interested in the privatization of the Polish steel sector, he said. AM

CZECH AMBASSADOR TO EU WARNS PRAGUE OF LOOMING DEADLINE
Pavel Telicka said the Czech Republic has just three months to institute legislative changes that are key to the release of EU funding and other economic benefits, the daily "Mlada fronta Dnes" reported on 15 July. Telicka, who was the country's chief negotiator with Brussels until he became Czech ambassador to the EU earlier this year, cited EU demands for new Czech laws on public procurement, veterinary norms, and the recognition of professional qualifications. In the absence of such changes, Telicka said, Czechs might face obstacles to food exports, severely limited access to EU labor markets, and a halt in EU funding. He said the Czech Republic has until about mid-October to rectify the shortcomings. AH

SLOVAK PROSECUTORS IN WIRETAPPING CASE WERE THEMSELVES UNDER SURVEILLANCE
Military prosecutors investigating the wiretapping case involving Alliance of a New Citizen (ANO) Chairman Pavol Rusko and an editor from the Slovak daily "Sme" were being monitored, parliamentary Security Committee Chairman Robert Kalinak said on 14 July, according to TASR and CTK. "The military prosecutors were under pressure. Their telephone calls [and] discussions were wiretapped," Kalinak said. Prosecutors halted the investigation last week, citing a lack of evidence (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2003). Speaking at a press conference on 11 July, chief military prosecutor Dobroslav Trnka said the Slovak Intelligence Service (SIS) illegally wiretapped a conversation between Rusko and "Sme" journalist Peter Cernak, but he added that the newspaper was the target, not Rusko. Trnka said that another 10 illegal recordings were uncovered during the investigation and the suspects had been narrowed to eight people, all of them from the SIS. Further investigation will be left to individual units of the Interior Ministry and SIS, with the military prosecution assuming a supervisory role, he said. SIS Director Ladislav Pittner said on 14 July that he has launched an internal investigation into the case and that none of the eight suspects are "currently on active duty," TASR reported. DW

PRESS GROUP CONDEMNS WIRETAPPING OF SLOVAK NEWSPAPER
The Vienna-based International Press Institute (IPI), in a 14 July letter addressed to Slovak President Rudolf Schuster, condemned the "illegal telephone surveillance at the editorial desk of 'Sme' daily" by the SIS, according to the IPI website (http://www.freemedia.at). Copies of the letter, signed by IPI Director Johann Fritz, were sent to the Slovak prime minister and prosecutor-general. "IPI believes that this action undermines the right of journalists to protect their confidential sources of information and seriously undermines the right to freely publish information," Fritz says. He further calls on Slovak officials "to halt any further press freedom violations and invasions into the privacy of media and journalists. Furthermore, we ask that you stop any kind of harassment of journalists and ensure that the media are allowed to report freely." DW

HUNGARIAN AUDIT OFFICE TO INVESTIGATE HIGHWAY MANAGEMENT COMPANY
State Audit Office (ASZ) Chairman Arpad Kovacs announced on 14 July that his office has begun an investigation into activities at the State Highway Management Company (AAK), MTI news agency reported. The investigation follows revelations that broker K&H Equities misused AAK assets, possibly with the knowledge of AAK management (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 17, 18, and 30 June and 11 July 2003). The ASZ's initial findings are expected by October. Opposition parties last week asked ASZ to investigate. The ASZ will extend its probe to other organizations, including the Hungarian Development Bank (MFB) and the Finance Ministry, MTI reported. Kovacs said his office warned months ago of loose regulations regarding off-budget government spending. ZsM

HUNGARY MAKES DIPLOMATIC OVERTURES TO SLOVAKIA OVER STATUS LAW
A spokesman for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry, Tamas Toth, said on 14 July that the ministry sent its Slovak counterpart a written invitation last week to high-level talks on the contentious Status Law, "Nepszabadsag" reported. The ministry proposed a meeting this month between Hungarian Foreign Minister Laszlo Kovacs and Slovak Foreign Minister Eduard Kukan to discuss clauses prescribing cultural and educational benefits for ethnic Hungarians abroad. Toth insisted that bilateral relations have not suffered as a result of the long-running dispute, citing a letter last week from Kukan to Kovacs thanking Hungary for supporting NATO accession for Slovakia. ZsM

HAVE CROATIA AND BOSNIA PUT OLD PROBLEMS TO REST...
Croatian Prime Minister Ivica Racan and Dragan Covic, who is the current head of the Bosnian Presidency, concluded a series of agreements in Sarajevo on 14 July aimed at solving some problems that have bedeviled bilateral relations since the breakup of former Yugoslavia more than a decade ago, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. One document deals with the joint management of the Croatian port of Ploce, which is Bosnia's traditional outlet to the Adriatic. The second agreement provides for Croatian transit rights across the narrow strip of Bosnian territory connecting the Bosnian interior with the Adriatic at the fishing village of Neum, which bisects Croatia's Dalmatian coast. The third pact enables citizens of the two countries to cross their common border with only their identity card rather than a passport. PM

...AS ATTENTION CENTERS ON A NEW HIGHWAY?
Racan said in Sarajevo on 14 July that Croatia will help "in any way it can" to develop the so-called Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 5-C connecting Budapest with Ploce via Osijek and Sarajevo, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. He added that Croatia will not attempt to tell Bosnia where and how to build its segment of the highway, which is expected to involve primarily Malaysian capital. Some Sarajevo media suggested, however, that they fear Croatia might make the final ratification of the Ploce agreement by its parliament contingent on a large role for Croatian companies in the highway project, Hina reported. PM

CROATIA STILL LOOKING FOR WAY OUT OF ICC IMBROGLIO
Croatian Deputy Defense Minister Grgic Polic said in Washington on 14 July that her country is still seeking to find a mutually acceptable formula with U.S. officials regarding the handover of each other's citizens to the International Criminal Court (ICC) short of concluding a bilateral extradition-immunity agreement, which the EU has pressured Croatia into rejecting, Hina reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 2 July 2003). Polic added that military cooperation with the United States is very important to Croatia. PM

ISRAELI PRESIDENT VISITS CROATIAN CONCENTRATION CAMP
Israeli President Moshe Katzav visited Jasenovac concentration camp on 13 July, where he called on "all generations, current and future, to learn the lessons from what happened in this place," the "International Herald Tribune" reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 July 2003). The Paris-based daily added that "independent historians estimate that 80,000 people, including 13,000 Jews, died in Jasenovac. Some Serbs argue that the true death toll was in the hundreds of thousands." Some historians who dispute the Serbian claims contend that the Croatian Ustashe, unlike the Nazis, did not possess the equipment to kill hundreds of thousands. PM

U.S. GROUP SAYS ONLY ONE MAN STANDS BETWEEN SERBIA AND NATO
Bruce Jackson of the nongovernmental U.S.-NATO Committee said in Belgrade on 14 July after meeting Prime Minister Zoran Zivkovic and other Serbian leaders that "there is frankly only one issue that remains outstanding [between Serbia and NATO] and that is the issue of [indicted war criminal] General [Ratko] Mladic," Reuters reported (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 25, 26, and 27 June 2003 and "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June 2003). "Mladic is the only thing in your way to start the integration process. One man with a legal problem is holding 8 million people hostage," Jackson added. Serbia and Montenegro recently applied to join NATO's Partnership for Peace program. In related news, Serbian Justice Minister Vladan Batic said that bringing Serbian war criminals to justice is a priority for the government along with fighting organized crime and corruption, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. PM

PUBLIC FEUDING BETWEEN SERBIAN REFORMERS CONTINUES
The Serbian government on 14 July rejected allegations of corruption in its ranks made recently by Serbian National Bank Governor Mladjan Dinkic, who heads the G-17 Plus political party, RFE/RL's South Slavic and Albanian Languages Service reported. The government said in a statement that if Dinkic has proof of such corruption, as he claims, he is obliged to report it to the police and the State Prosecutor's Office. The government recently sent to the parliament a draft bill on the Serbian National Bank, which is widely seen as a challenge to Dinkic. Finance and Economy Minister Bozidar Djelic said the government has already decided who the new governor of the bank will be but did not elaborate. There are few differences in ideology between the governing Democratic Opposition of Serbia (DOS) coalition and G-17 Plus, but both groups are competing for the same constituency of pro-reform voters (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 June 2003). PM

PRESIDENTS OF ALBANIA, BULGARIA, AND MACEDONIA WRAP UP MEETING ON REGIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE
On 13 July in the Albanian town of Liqenas, the presidents of Albania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia -- Alfred Moisiu, Georgi Parvanov, and Boris Trajkovski, respectively -- concluded three days of meetings, one day in each country, MIA news agency reported. Their consultations focused on improving regional infrastructure, including the so-called Pan-European Transport Corridor No. 8 running from Italy through Albania and Macedonia to Black Sea ports in Bulgaria. Parvanov called the corridor "one of the roads to Europe," which will help promote regional integration as well as reduce the distance between Western Europe and points beyond to the east (see "RFE/RL Balkan Report," 27 June and 11 July 2003). UB

FOREIGN OFFICIALS AGAIN WARN OF CORRUPTION IN ROMANIA
In Bucharest on 14 July, U.S. Deputy Trade Secretary Samuel Bodman said a fair and transparent business environment is essential for attracting U.S. companies to Romania, RFE/RL's Bucharest bureau reported. Bodman, who arrived in Romania on a three-day visit aimed at boosting bilateral economic relations, said that U.S. President George W. Bush asked him to thank Romania for its unconditional support in the fight against terrorism. The same day, visiting European Commission General Directorate for Enlargement chief Matthias Ruete called corruption one of the primary factors that keep investors away from a country. He said representatives from the commission and from European financial institutions are currently analyzing the issue of a functioning market economy in Romania, which the country must achieve before joining the EU. ZsM

BUCHAREST COURT HANDS OUT JAIL SENTENCES IN URSU CASE
A Bucharest court on 14 July found two former officers guilty of first-degree murder in the slaying of dissident writer and engineer Gheorghe Ursu, who was killed after being arrested in 1985, Mediafax and international media reported. The court sentenced Tudor Stanica and Mihail Creanga, both formerly high-ranking police officers, to 22 years in prison. (A Romanian amnesty act reduces by half any sentences for crimes committed before 1998.) The men will each have to pay an additional 333 million lei (over $10,000) in compensation to each of three members of Ursu's family. Ursu was arrested in September 1985 for his anti-communist views and writings and his ties to Romanian emigres. Stanica and Creanga planned Ursu's murder using prisoner Marian Clita, who has already been sentenced to 20 years for the murder. The court still has to rule on one other officer, Stefan Burcea, who has been charged in the case. ZsM

NEW TELERADIO MOLDOVA DIRECTOR ELECTED
Artur Efremov was elected the new director of the state-owned Teleradio Moldova, BASA-Press reported. Efremov, 32, followed Ion Gonta as chairman and was elected based on the recently adopted audiovisual law. Between 1999 and 2000, Efremov served as chief editor of the ORT-Moldova television station's information service. There were nine candidates for the post, including Gonta. ZsM

BULGARIAN SOCIALISTS OPPOSE 'HASTY' CONSTITUTIONAL CHANGES
Opposition Socialist Party (BSP) Chairman Sergey Stanishev said in London on 14 July that his party will support the judicial reform demanded by the EU, but added that he opposes "hasty" constitutional changes, mediapool.bg reported. In reaction to the governing National Movement Simeon II's recent announcement that it intends to adopt constitutional amendments by the end of September, Stanishev said that while his party supports the judicial reform he is personally opposed to implementing such changes under time pressure. Stanishev expressed his belief that the government should explain to its European partners where the problems with the judiciary lie, but he did not elaborate (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2003). UB

NEW NATIONWIDE PRIVATE TV STATION LICENSED IN BULGARIA
The state Communications Regulation Commission (KRS) on 14 July issued a license for a third nationwide television station to the Greek-owned Nova Televiziya, mediapool.bg reported. Two other bidders for the license -- the Czech-owned Nova Holding and the Bulgarian TV 2 -- announced that they will challenge the KRS's decision in Bulgarian courts. UB

IRANIAN GOVERNMENT SUPPRESSES NEWS ON '18 TIR' EVENTS


The Tehran Governorate-General's director-general for political-security affairs, Ebrahim Rezai-Babadi, said on 10 July that on the previous day a few dozen people were involved in limited disturbances in Kargar Avenue and Tehran Pars, and he claimed that some media exaggerated the extent of the unrest, the Iranian Students News Agency reported (ISNA). If true, then the Iranian government is responsible for the lack of reliable information about the events of "18 Tir" (9 July), the anniversary of the day in 1999 when Iranian security forces and vigilantes stormed the Tehran University campus.

"The Wall Street Journal" reported on 10 July that "thousands of protesters clashed with police and Islamic vigilantes near Tehran University." "The Washington Post" described "leaderless, expectant crowds" outside Tehran University that were facing "riot police, plainclothes security officers on motorbikes, and helicopters circling overhead," and it said police broke up clashes between hard-line vigilantes and bystanders and dispersed other groups with tear gas. In other parts of the city, members of the Basij militia established checkpoints and searched automobiles.

The "Financial Times" reported that "hundreds of people" clashed with about 2,000 riot police and vigilantes, with witnesses saying "police beat and arrested dozens of youths." People chanted against the regime and President Hojatoleslam Mohammad Khatami, threw stones and explosives at the police, and honked their car horns. Reuters on 9 July cited an anonymous witness who described sporadic street battles between vigilantes, police, and "pro-democracy youths." The witness claimed the police fought the vigilantes to prevent them from fighting the youths.

Iranian exile media presented a different perspective of events. Channel 1 TV from Los Angeles took calls from Tehran that described clashes between the public and the Basij at Inqilab Square and at Tehran University, concussion grenades, and the use of fire hoses and tear gas. Callers from other parts of Tehran claimed that some demonstrators and Basijis were killed. A rather enthusiastic caller claimed that people would storm a prison to free detained protesters if they were not released by 13 July. Opposition websites described clashes at Laleh Square in Tehran. The websites and television stations described clashes in Ahvaz, Isfahan, and Kurdistan, and in Mashhad Ansar-i Hizbullah vigilantes allegedly used mustard gas against demonstrators, according to www.newsgooya.com. The mustard-gas claim, while very unlikely, shows the extremes to which websites will go in making claims against the regime.

The Baztab website on 10 July described "sporadic demonstrations" at Daneshju Park, Inqilab Square, Kargar Avenue, Keshavarz Boulevard, Laleh Park, and Square One in Tehran Pars, along with others across the country.

These inconsistencies can to some extent be ascribed to Western journalists' reliance on witnesses who seem incapable of making accurate crowd estimates. Given the difficulty in getting and keeping press accreditation, it is possible that the journalists are reluctant to risk irritating the Iranian government. The situation for journalists of Iranian origin, even if they are citizens of other countries and are working for foreign news organizations, is particularly dangerous (see the case of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, above). Some observers might feel that the journalistic standards of the exile media are open to debate, and that some exile media organizations could be pursuing an agenda that is served by spreading stories of mayhem in Iranian streets.

The ultimate responsibility for the absence of reliable and accurate information, however, lies with the Iranian regime, which imposed a news blackout. Domestic Iranian broadcasting has avoided news of the 9 July events. The websites of the news agencies ISNA, Baztab, Mehr, and Fars were not updated during the night of 9-10 July; and although it was updated regularly, the official Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA) carried no news about the unrest. (Mobile-telephone service in parts of Tehran allegedly was also shut down for a time.)

The reformist Iranian print media complained that it was acting on a government directive that forbade reporting about the events of the previous day. A 10 July editorial in "Yas-i No" apologized because it could not mention "a single word about the 9 July anniversary of that regrettable and criminal event." It said, "Every reference to 9 July, except the date of publication, had to be removed because of the imposed restrictions." "Yas-i No" added that the other reformist newspapers had acted similarly on 9 July, whereas hard-line dailies like "Kayhan" and Resalat" had ignored the government directive.

As if in confirmation of the regime's dissimulation about its actions earlier, Ali Talai, an official from the Tehran Governorate-General's political-security affairs directorate, said on 12 July that 250 people were arrested on 18 Tir, ISNA reported. More than 80 of these people have been released, he said, adding that more detainees would be released soon. This would seem to contradict Rezai-Babadi's 10 July statement about the involvement of a few dozen people in limited disturbances.

AFGHAN FOREIGN MINISTER SENDS TOUGH MESSAGE TO PAKISTAN...
Following two weeks of border clashes between Afghan and Pakistani forces (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 July 2003, and "RFE/RL Newsline," 11 and 14 July 2003), Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah issued the pointed message to Islamabad on 14 July that border incursions "will not be tolerated" by Afghanistan, RFE/RL reported. Abdullah told reporters, diplomats, and scholars at RFE/RL headquarters in Washington that while Afghanistan is ready to move beyond the "suffering" its neighbors caused it in the past, "I can assure you that Afghans will not allow an inch of their soil [to be] under occupation by any means" and warned it would be "extremely negative" if other neighbors followed Pakistan's recent example and reverted to "old habits." Abdullah framed the alleged incursions within the context of the U.S.-led war on terrorism, suggesting that "if [the Taliban] is in a city in a foreign country, it should be dealt with." While Abdullah did not directly implicate Pakistan, Afghan officials have in past weeks made repeated reference to extremists thought to be sheltering there. IL

...AND WARNS THAT WITHOUT AID, AFGHANISTAN WILL FAIL
Abdullah offered his listeners in Washington two scenarios five years hence: a democratic Afghanistan "on the road to prosperity," or "a failed state ruled by drug lords, warlords, by forces of darkness" and terrorism, RFE/RL reported. Noting that he is grateful to the "great contribution" of the international community, Abdullah said nevertheless that most aid pledges, "far from being sufficient" in the first place, have gone to humanitarian rather than reconstruction projects, which will have far-reaching effects. "If in the year 2004 Kabul citizens are still in the dark because of [lack of] electricity," he said, the government "will have no credibility" and the chance for stability will be lost. Abdullah said another donors' conference is necessary to reach the $15 billion-$20 billion World Bank estimate of Afghanistan's reconstruction needs over the next five years. While the sum "sounds like a lot," Abdullah said, "in light of the tragic events of 11 September it is a worthwhile investment." IL

INCURSIONS INTO AFGHANISTAN CONFIRMED BY GOVERNMENT SPOKESMAN...
Afghan Transitional Administration spokesman Ahmad Jawayd Lodin said on 14 July that reports by delegations sent to Nangarhar Province have confirmed the reported incursions into Afghanistan by Pakistani militia (see above), Afghanistan Television reported. Lodin said Pakistani militia have advanced several hundred meters into the Goshta and Lalpur areas of Nangarhar Province. AT

...WHO REJECTS REPORTS THAT AFGHAN GOVERNMENT WAS INFORMED OF THE MILITARY MOVES...
Transitional Administration spokesman Lodin categorically rejected the reported assertions made by Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Rostam Shah Mohmand that Pakistani forces advanced into the area following discussions between Islamabad and Kabul, Afghanistan Television reported on 14 July. Lodin said the Transitional Administration had no advance information of the incursions by Pakistan. The current border dispute between Afghanistan and Pakistan began following the joint U.S.-Afghan Operation Unified Resolve, which began in Nangarhar Province in late June (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 26 June 2003), while concurrent operations on the Pakistan side of the border were initiated by Islamabad. The goal of these operations was to stop Al-Qaeda members who were using the area as a staging area for attacks on the U.S.-led antiterrorism coalition and Afghan forces. There is no information on whether the Afghan and Pakistani forces coordinated their operations. AT

...AS TRIPARTITE COMMISSION IS SET UP TO SOLVE THE DISPUTE
Transitional Administration spokesman Lodin said a tripartite commission comprising Afghan, Pakistani, and U.S. representatives has been established to investigate the Pakistani incursions into the Afghan territory, Afghanistan Television reported on 14 July. He said that the commission is expected to begin its work on 15 July (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 11 July 2003). AT

LOCAL PAKISTANI OFFICIALS CONTINUE TO DENY CHARGES OF INTRUSION INSIDE AFGHANISTAN
Sahibzada Mohammad Anees of the Mohmand Agency in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province said on 14 July that his forces "have neither encroached upon Afghan territory nor set up a border post beyond the Durand Line," the Pakistan daily "The News" reported. Responding to claims made on 13 July by Afghan commander General Mohammad Mostafa that his forces drove the Pakistanis from the Yaqubi Kandaw border post (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 July 2003), Anees said that Pakistani soldiers and militiamen are still manning the post, adding that Pakistan has established eight border posts, including one at Yaqubi Kandaw, on the border with Afghanistan. Pakistan sent its troops to the "hitherto inaccessible and unadministered parts of Mohmand Agency" in late June (see above) to extend the central government's rule there, "The News" reported. The "Durand Line" refers to Sir Henry Mortimer Durand, the British signatory of the 1893 agreement that demarcated the border between Afghanistan and British India. AT

FIVE AFGHAN POLICEMEN KILLED IN ATTACK BY TALIBAN IN KANDAHAR
Five Afghan police officers were killed and two wounded on 14 July when their station in Ghorak District of Kandahar Province was attacked by elements loyal to the ousted Taliban regime, Reuters reported on 15 July. AT

U.S. FUNDS CONSTRUCTION OF BRIDGE BETWEEN TAJIKISTAN AND AFGHANISTAN
The United States has earmarked $12 million for construction of a bridge over the Pyandzh River between Tajikistan and Afghanistan, RIA-Novosti reported on 14 July, quoting the U.S. Embassy in Dushanbe. The bridge is expected to help in the economic integration of the Central Asian region by making possible the establishment of new trade routes. The project is reported to be the result of discussions among the U.S., Tajik, Afghan, Russian, and Norwegian governments. According to the embassy, a group of U.S. Army engineers has arrived in Tajikistan to study possible locations for the bridge, which will be the first to link the two countries across the Pyandzh. Construction is expected to start this fall. BB

TEHRAN JAILS MORE JOURNALISTS...
Issa Saharkhiz, the managing director of "Aftab" monthly, was imprisoned on 15 July after appearing before a court in Tehran to face a complaint about a text published in August-September 2002, ISNA reported. Bail was set at 150 million rials (about $18,750). Iraj Rastegar, the managing director of "Tavana" weekly -- temporarily banned two years ago -- received a court summons on 13 July and, when he appeared the next day, he was sent to Evin Prison, ISNA reported on 14 July. Vahid Pur-Ostad and Hussein Bastani, editorial-board members of "Yas-i No," were detained on 12 July when they responded to a court summons, as was another board member, Said Razavi-Faqih, on 10 July, according to Reporters Without Borders on 12 July. BS

...AND INTERROGATES AUTHORS
Habibullah Davaran and Farhad Behbehani, authors of the banned book titled "Memoirs of Prison," were interrogated at the Tehran Revolutionary Court, "Yas-i No" reported on 14 July. They were summoned to answer questions about the book, which deals with their imprisonment in the early 1980s. Omid-i Farda publishing house's director, Davud Alibabai, said in a fax to "Yas-i No" that the Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry had authorized and censored the book already, and he asked if the judiciary recognized the authority of the ministry. If it does not, Alibabai said, then this should be announced so that publishers no longer have to bother getting permits. BS

TEHRAN'S INTERFERENCE WITH WEBSITES PROVOKES ANGRY REACTION
Iran's Post, Telegraph, and Telephone Ministry announced that the blocking of the websites persianblog.com and blogspot.com, a hosting site for personal-publication websites, was caused by a private company's mistake, "Yas-i No" reported on 14 July. The ministry added that it has ordered the company, Pars Online, to lift the filters and be more careful in the future. As noted in iraniangirl.blogspot.com about blocking of the sites, "They always knew that Iranian weblogs can be their first enemy & [sic] they couldn't stand so many pages in the Internet without their control written by Iranians & were always searching for a way; at last they did the worst & blocked all of them!" Meanwhile, students at Amir Kabir University have threatened to take legal action against President Mohammad Khatami's government for blocking Iranians' access to their website (www.akunews.org), dpa reported on 14 July. The students' letter noted, "We regret that access to many pornographic sites are easier than that of an acknowledged and registered students group." BS

CANADIAN PHOTOJOURNALIST'S SON DEMANDS RETURN OF REMAINS FROM IRAN...
Stephan Hachemi, the son of Canadian photojournalist Zahra Kazemi, is demanding the return of his mother's remains from Iran, Toronto's "National Post" reported on 14 July. Kazemi died in an Iranian military hospital on 11 July, apparently of injuries suffered while being interrogated by the authorities, who arrested her on 23 June. "I have a right to get her body back," Hachemi said. "That is what she wanted, to be in Canada, not in Iran." He added that independent medical experts in Canada can determine the true cause of death. He has filed a formal request with the Iranian Embassy in Ottawa for repatriation of the body to Canada. Canadian diplomats cited by the "National Post" said Kazemi's mother in Shiraz is authorized to determine what is done with the remains, while Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman Reynald Doiron said Canadian authorities are likely to drop their efforts to repatriate the body because of the mother's reported authority over the body. BS

...WHILE IRANIAN MINISTRY EXPRESSES CONDOLENCES...
Iran's Islamic Culture and Guidance Ministry, which is responsible for press accreditation, sent a message of condolence on 14 July to Kazemi's Shiraz-based relatives, IRNA reported on 15 July. In the message to the family, Islamic Culture and Guidance Minister Ahmad Masjid-Jamei promised that the matter will be investigated thoroughly. Officials from the ministry's Fars Province office visited the Kazemi family home on 14 July. BS

...AND TEHRAN HOPES FOR EXPANSION OF RELATIONS WITH CANADA
Iranian parliament speaker Hojatoleslam Mehdi Karrubi met with Canadian Ambassador Philip McKinnon on 14 July and called for expanded political, economic, and parliamentary ties, IRNA reported. Karrubi told his guest that greater interaction between the two countries and the exchange of experience would contribute to reform in Iran. According to IRNA, McKinnon briefed Karrubi on Canadian political institutions and the legislature's role in domestic and international affairs. BS

TEHRAN-TOKYO OIL TALKS CONTINUE
Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Namdar-Zanganeh said on 14 July that Iran and Japan are close to closing a $2.8 billion deal for developing the Azadegan oil field, Kyodo World Service reported. Zanganeh claimed that the Petroleum Ministry also has held discussions with Chinese, Indian, and Russian firms, but there is a good chance that it will conclude its deal with Japan. Anonymous "Japanese sources" cited by Kyodo acknowledged that the discussions are continuing but cautioned that many differences remain. Tokyo had previously indicated that it will not sign a contract for the oil-development project if Tehran fails to address international concern about its nuclear activities (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 7 July 2003). BS

IRAN ANNOUNCES NEW OIL DISCOVERY
Abol-Hassan Khamushi, managing director of Iran's Oil Development and Engineering Company, announced on 14 July the discovery of three new Iranian oil fields near the southern city of Bushehr, IRNA reported, citing "Kayhan" newspaper. Preliminary studies indicate that the Ferdows oil field contains 30.6 billion barrels, the Kuh-i Mond oil field contains 6.63 billion barrels, and the Zagheh oil field contains 1.3 billion barrels, Khamushi said, according to Reuters. The high-density oil is of less value in international markets, and the recoverable amount will be much less than the announced 38 billion barrels. BS

CAR EXPLODES OUTSIDE IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL'S OFFICES
A blast destroyed a car outside the Baghdad compound that houses the new Iraqi Governing Council on 14 July, Reuters reported the same day. The origin of the blast was not initially determined, although some international media reported a grenade as the cause. The car bore diplomatic license plates, according to Reuters. Earlier in the day, one U.S. soldier was killed and 10 wounded when their convoy was attacked in Baghdad by multiple rocket-propelled grenades, U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported in a 14 July press release (http://www.centcom.mil). Meanwhile, CENTCOM also reported on 14 July that Operation Ivy Serpent continues to yield results, with the second days' operations resulting in the detention of 226 individuals, six of whom were identified as "former regime loyalist leaders," and the confiscation of 800 82-millimeter mortar rounds, 50 AK-47 assault rifles, and 26 rocket-propelled grenades. Twenty-seven raids were carried out in the first two days of the operation. KR

IRAQI GOVERNING COUNCIL TO SEND DELEGATION TO THE UN
The Iraqi Governing Council voted to send a delegation to the United Nations during its first full session on 14 July, AP reported the same day. A three-member delegation will lobby the Security Council "to assert and emphasize the role of the Governing Council as a legitimate Iraqi body during this transitional period," "The Washington Post" reported on 15 July. Some Security Council members have questioned the Governing Council's ability to operate with a modicum of independence from the U.S.-led administration in Iraq. However, UN Special Representative in Iraq Sergio Vieira de Mello hailed the formation of the council and pledged full UN support when he addressed the council on 13 July, UN News Center reported the same day (http://www.un.org/news). Vieira de Mello said the UN remains committed to assisting all Iraqis in any way that it can, adding, "We are here, in whatever form you wish, for as long as you want us." KR

RESISTANCE GROUPS CONTINUE TO ISSUE THREATS AGAINST COALITION
The 1920 Revolution Brigades, the military wing of the Iraqi National Islamic Resistance Group, has issued a statement threatening continued attacks on coalition forces, Al-Jazeera reported on 14 July. The group said it is coordinating its attacks with other resistance factions and it claimed the brigades downed a large U.S. transporter plane in Al-Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, according to Al-Jazeera. The group sent its first communique to Al-Jazeera earlier this month, the news channel reported on 10 July. It has claimed that it is not linked in any way to the deposed regime of Saddam Hussein but seeks to liberate Iraqi land from the coalition "occupiers." Meanwhile, Al-Arabiyah Television reported on 14 July that leaflets were distributed in Baghdad announcing the formation of the so-called Iraqi Liberation Army. The leaflet claims that Iraqis from all ethnic and religious groups are members, and it purports to have the support of the Al-Najaf Hawzah, or seminary. The leaflet threatens attacks against newly opened embassies in Iraq and addresses UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, declaring that it refuses to recognize 9 April as a day of liberation. The group called on Arab states and the Arab League to support the resistance. KR

JOINT U.S.-TURKISH STATEMENT ISSUED ON COMMANDO ARRESTS IN IRAQ
Reuters reports that the United States and Turkey issued a joint statement on 15 July expressing regret over the arrest of 11 Turkish commandos by U.S. forces in northern Iraq on 4 July (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 7 July 2003). The Turkish General Staff had labeled the incident a "crisis of trust" between the two states, whose relations have soured over disagreements related to the U.S.-led war in Iraq (see "RFE/RL Iraq Report," 28 February and 7 March 2003). "Both sides regretted the incident occurring between allies and the treatment which Turkish soldiers faced in detention," the statement noted. "Both sides agreed to share rapidly through appropriate channels every sort of information regarding security and stability in the region before taking any action." The statement follows a weeklong investigation by military and diplomatic representatives on both sides. The Turkish troops were reportedly arrested on charges of planning an assassination attempt on the governor of Kirkuk. Turkish officials have denied the allegations. KR

JORDAN FREEZES IRAQI ASSETS, BUT WON'T TURN THEM OVER
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan has taken steps to freeze Iraqi assets held in Jordanian banks but will not be handing those assets over to the new U.S.-administered Iraqi government, according to a 15 July report by dpa. Instead, Jordan intends to use the funds to repay an estimated government debt of $1.3 billion and pay claims by Jordanian businessmen for goods exported to Iraq, Jordanian Finance Minister Michel Marto said on 15 July. "The frozen Iraqi deposits will not be released or shifted to any other place before repaying the entire claims of Jordanian exporters for goods they had already exported to Iraq or which they had imported but were unable to export to Iraq" due to the war, he said. According to dpa, dozens of Jordanian industrialists were involved in contracts with the deposed Hussein regime to export goods to Iraq under the UN oil-for-food program, but were unpaid as a result of the war and subsequent fall of the Hussein regime. KR

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